Saturday, February 11, 2006


Seizure of Medication from Canada

According to a story on the front page of the Los Angeles Times today, the federal government is seizing selected shipments of drugs from Canada to patients in the United States. Purchasing drugs from foreign pharmacies is illegal for Americans, but the law has not been enforced until recently. According to the story, “The U.S. government apparently is stepping up seizures of cheap drugs ordered by Americans — mainly seniors — from abroad, Canadian pharmacies say. The pharmacies, which sell drugs by mail and over the Internet, say their shipments are being intercepted by U.S. Customs officials around the country where foreign mail is handled.”

One reason advanced for the step-up in seizures is to reduce competition with the new Medicare Prescription Drug benefit which went into effect on January 1. Some seniors report that the imported drugs are cheaper than those offered by the new Medicare program.

This is an example of how the Republican Administration caters to and protects the interests of the big pharmaceutical firms and screws the public. How much longer must we put up with this form of corruption?

My Father’s Wisdom

One day my father remarked that if one had a sufficient sum of money to start with, he could always find ways to make more money. However, if he didn’t have the money, he could never increase his wealth.

He didn’t say it, but that’s one of the effects of free, uncontrolled, unregulated capitalism. The system operates to reward the investors, those who are already somewhat rich. It makes them richer. It provides goods and services at competitive prices that the rich and the somewhat rich can afford. It provides jobs at low wages to the poor. My father knew all this. He lived during the time of the “Robber Barons,” who controlled and ran the capitalist system to enrich themselves. He inherited a small business from his father. During the Great Depression (1929 – 1937) he lost it and didn’t have enough money to start another one.

Some of the ideologues who support and advise the Bush Administration believe that capitalism and free enterprise, if completely freed from government regulation and high taxes, would bring about a utopia in which everyone would have enough food, enough clothing, warm places to live, adequate medical care, and all the rest. Government interference and heavy taxation prevent the system from fulfilling the promised utopia.

My father knew better. He lived during times when taxes were low and government regulation didn’t exist, when labor unions were weak, and when men worked in factories for low wages in unsafe conditions. A man was lucky in those days to live to be 70 years. Both of my grandfathers died before reaching that age.

So, what do I do about all this? I am only one person, one vote on Election Day, and have the privilege of writing little articles for this blog. I don’t know how persuasive I am. I know that the ideologues are dead wrong, even though they mean well and are sincere in their desire to bring about a better society.

What would I do if I had the power to reshape our society and our economic system? I would advocate in favor of a little socialism. Let certain services that are both beneficial and necessary for everyone be provided by government or by regulated non-profit institutions. I won’t try to say here just which services are beneficial and necessary to all. That decision must be left to the public, either by representative assemblies or by referenda. Meanwhile, I shall continue to write and agitate in opposition to the ideas and the visions of the new conservative ideologues.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Universal Surveillance: a Bad Bargain

The outcry and the congressional hearings about the NSA surveillance prompt the question: Which do we Americans value higher, our freedoms or our security? The Bush administration is offering us a bargain: give up our privacy with regard to phone calls, e-mail, and perhaps postal mail and our government will protect us from terrorist attacks. It seems that many Americans are willing to accept that deal. After all, what does an honest person have to hide? Besides, if we all know that Big Brother is taping our phone conversations, intercepting and reading our e-mail, and opening our regular mail, we can be careful not to say or write anything that might incriminate us. What’s the problem?

The problem is that the bargain is phony. Even with all the surveillance, our government can not give us absolute protection from future terrorist attacks. If we know that a government agent is reading our mail and eavesdropping on our phone conversations, the terrorists will know that too. What will be gained, in the long run, by all this secret snooping?

As a matter of common sense, as well as thousands of years of experience, we know that terrorist acts, as well as other crimes, can not be prevented. Criminals can not be stopped from robbing banks. Thieves can not be stopped from stealing. All that can be done is to capture, try, convict, and punish criminals after their crimes have been committed. It is impossible to know everything. Yet, the policy of the administration seems to be to try to know everything by snooping on everyone. There is some basic law of human behavior, analogous to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in physics, which prevents the acquisition of all the knowledge it would take to prevent any terrorist attack in the future.

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